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Toward a Womanist Homiletic

Katie Cannon, Alice Walker and Emancipatory Proclamation


Donna E. Allen

The sermon is a major theological voice in the Black church; it carries enormous influence and is traditionally and predominantly a Christian-based theoethical construct. Through the sermon, the preacher negotiates the contours of African American sacred and secular culture. The congregation is invited to examine social morals and values according to the faith claims of the sermon.
Toward a Womanist Homiletic builds on the work of Katie G. Cannon and Alice Walker to offer a womanist paradigm for analyzing the sermons of Black women and proposes the content of a womanist homiletic. This womanist homiletic is a foundational construct that includes an examination of theological language, the insights on the ‘trans-rational’ nature of preaching and the function of embodiment and performed identity in preaching. It also includes insights from a womanist critique of language in Black preaching, particularly the prevalence of derogatory language about women in the sacred rhetoric of Black preaching.


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Conclusion 81


Conclusion Womanist thought provides a vehicle by which we can examine the religious experience and sacred rhetoric of African-American women. The womanist orientation in preaching is a critical homiletic frame- work; it is reflective, as well as a catalyst for change. A womanist orien- tation is reflective because it challenges the inherent oppression in our traditions (i.e., racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism). Womanist orientation is a catalyst for change because it pushes us toward over- coming oppression through emancipatory praxis. Cannon’s womanist-critical evaluation of Black preaching is a praxis-oriented examination that exposes inconsistencies between the rhetorical and lived experiences of the Black church community. It calls for elimination of linguistic violence in sermonic images, such as negative and derogatory images that dehumanize African-American women. A womanist hermeneutic also gives rise to a more gender- inclusive social and religious order that challenges biblical interpreta- tion, which marginalizes women or reinforces patriarchal teachings of the text—making this praxis a potentially empowering, liberating, and Allen_Book.indb 81 03/12/12 3:23 PM 82 toward a womanist homiletic motivating force for unity and revitalization within the Black commu- nity, as well as for other oppressed peoples. Additionally, the analysis of sermons by Prathia Hall, using Katie Cannon’s womanist queries for Black preaching, reveals an emancipa- tory praxis embedded within Hall’s sermons. Hall, like other African- American womanist preachers, employs a sacred rhetoric that challenges and expands the Black preaching tradition. Furthering Cannon’s wom- anist critique through a return to Alice Walker’s definition of womanist...

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